2011 film The Caller is a frustrating viewing experience. It is not frustrating in being completely inept. Instead, it is frustrating because it has some shreds of promise, but the film completely unravels, becoming consistently more and more disappointing as it goes. This isn’t a completely terrible film, but one that is so mediocre it becomes a chore to watch. It’s certainly not good, and also certainly not bad enough to enter “so bad it’s good” territory.
The film has an interesting plot initially that, while taking elements from several other films, those elements combine for a fairly unique story. Rachel Lefevre (Victoria in Twilight) stars as Mary Kee, a young woman who is moving into a new apartment in Puerto Rico. There is a gardener named George working at the apartment complex, played by recognizable character actor Luiz Guzman. Early on we learn that Mary has just gone through a nasty divorce from an abusive and threatening husband. The other major character is teacher John Guidi, played by True Blood’s Stephen Moyer. While the film doesn’t blow you away with star power, it is a cast of competent actors who are also not unknowns. It is directed by Matthew Parkhill and written by Sergio Casci.
The film jumps right into the main plotline as Mary begins receiving strange phone calls from someone who seemingly has the wrong number. The caller is a woman named “Rose”. Rose keeps asking for “Bobby”. Mary keeps saying she doesn’t know a Bobby and she is the new resident. Mary begins feeling badly for Rose and decides to converse with her. Things turn strange when Rose mentions that Bobby recently came home from Vietnam. Rose insists the current date is September 4th, 1979.
Mary begins to get paranoid and seeing things. She meets John for the first time by accidentally walking into his class. John immediately and awkwardly asks her out, in front of his own class. Mary learns from the gardener George that a person named Rose did in fact live there in the 70s…and was murdered by her husband Bobby. George seemingly has no problem easily remembering specific events 35 years ago.
After this the movie delves into tedium. We get a lot of scenes of Mary getting tormented by the caller as the calls get increasingly unsettling. 53 minutes into the film Rose finally proves she is from the past by telling Mary what is buried in the garden in the present day accurately. Mary attempts to solve the mystery with John’s help, and the plot delves into a series of twists and turns so full of holes and confusing moments that by the time the mysteries become unraveled and the film climaxes, the viewer will find themselves scratching their head.
This film gets progressively worse as it goes along. An interesting premise is ruined by flat-out boredom and ends in absolute nonsensical confusion. The acting is solid for a very low budget horror film, and while the dialogue is as basic as it gets, the actors do the best they can with it. The plot starts off as an interesting idea but becomes unbearably tedious. The first call happens within the first 10 to 15 minutes of the film, and then we are treated to a repetitive series of calls throughout the film. This film feels like it struggled mightily to fill up even 90 minutes, as the plot becomes boring and repetitive early on. There is even a jump scare put in 42 minutes in, that has nothing to do with the plot or even any of the characters to remind us what we are watching is actually a horror film.
After the long stretch of repetition and flat-out tedium, the film then goes into a series of twists that happen every 5 minutes or so for the last half hour. Somewhere in there, there is a scene where John actually tries to explain in detail how the events are happening and why the plot makes sense in a poorly written scene. This explanation only serves to make things more confusing. The climactic series of events make progressively less and less films and don’t hold up to any scrutiny. What should be a relatively simple little thriller film becomes a confusing mess. The ending makes the least sense of anything in the film, and is the cherry of disappointment on top of this poorly made sundae.
This film has some decent to good acting by the important characters. The initial premise is interesting and engages the viewer pretty well early on. But the movie dives right into the sense of uneasiness and can’t seem to add anything interesting to the plot from about minute 15 to about minute 60, and then it just becomes hopelessly nonsensical. This film is so poorly written that it overshadows the good qualities completely. Not only does the film seem stretched out by about 45 minutes of unnecessary padding just to get to 90 minutes. Most of the dialogue is unoffensive, but that’s about as complimentary as one can be about it. The cinematography, music, and overall look and feel of the film seem completely standard and uninspiring. To sum it up in one sentence: An otherwise completely average film undone by poor writing. What we are left with is a frustratingly below-average film that gets worse as it goes. It’s as if the screenwriter came up with an interesting premise and didn’t really know what to do to flesh out an entire film based around it. It is not a fun watch and ultimately doesn’t completely fail, but fails just enough to be completely avoidable.